“Nurture a Sense of Belonging”

In April, as we Read Across SMSD, we will focus on the theme “Nurture a Sense of Belonging.” The books and poems featured this month ask readers to reflect on who they are and how they find their place in the world.

The elementary featured title in April is “Kiyoshi’s Walk.” In this story, Kiyoshi takes a walk with his grandfather, Eto, who is a poet. During their journey Eto writes haikus reflecting on the world around them. The book helps Kiyoshi and readers think about how poems connect us to the world around us and what is in our hearts.

David A. Smith, chief communications officer, joined Shawnee Mission West students, selected by their teacher Amanda Lea Courtney, for an exploration of poetry. As someone who loves poetry, Smith shared how he related to Kiyoshi and Eto. Click here to see a video.

“I often wonder: ‘Who speaks for my heart and for my soul?’” Smith expressed. “Many times, the answer comes from poets.”

Smith shared that poets like Octavio Paz, Dr. Maya Angelou, Robert Frost, Amanda Gorman, and Billy Collins have helped shape who he is and speak to how he sees the world.

According to Smith, “Octavio Paz wrote that poetry fits ‘Between what I see and saybetween what I say and callo.’” (“Between what I see and what I say, between what I say and what I keep silent.”)

Seniors Finn Crowell and Kevin Barnes then demonstrated their original works of poetry, setting the example for how poetry can be used to express oneself and nurture a sense of belonging.

Crowell has written poetry since elementary school and the interest grew when an English teacher encouraged Crowell to keep writing.

“I ended up loving it,” Crowell shared. “I love what poetry can express and not express and I love the versatility of poetry.” Crowell shared an original free-verse poem.

Barnes shared an original Petrarchan sonnet.

“I love how through poetry you can twist the rules to express something beautiful and emotional and connect with people,” Barnes said. “My favorite part of poetry is the connection it can create.”

April reading and learning resources

Read Across SMSD is modeled after the national NEA Read Across America program and is led in partnership with NEA Shawnee Mission. Here are Read Across America’s April titles, encouraging readers to “Nurture a Sense of Belonging.”

Elementary: “Kiyoshi’s Walk” by Mark Karlins and Illustrated by Nicole Wong.

Learn more by clicking here.

Middle Grade: “Finding Junie Kim” by Ellen Oh

Learn more by clicking here.

Young Adult: “Last Night at the Telegraph Club” by Malinda Lo

Learn more by clicking here.

The links above provide activity ideas, discussion, and reflective writing questions, related resources and more titles to try for each age group. Shawnee Mission School District librarians have also provided a list of similar book titles related to the theme. They can be found on this webpage. April is National Poetry month so, as the community joins in Read Across SMSD, everyone is also encouraged to write, read, and appreciate poetry in our lives.

What is Read Across SMSD?

Read Across SMSD is a celebration of reading across our community. We encourage reading for all ages across the SMSD in support of our district academic goals and our strategic plan belief that our community’s strength is derived from its diversity. Click here to find out more and participate in Read Across SMSD. Post your participation on social media using #ReadAcrossSMSD.

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